Jewish holidays conflict with tests

By Collin Leicht

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) begins at sundown today, lasting until sundown Thursday.

This year the holiday occurs the same week as many midterm exams.

Yom Kippur follows Rosh Hashana (The Jewish New Year), which began at sundown Oct. 3, marking a 10-day period of reflection and repentance.

Although many American calendars, including the NIU calendar, list both Yom

Kippur and Rosh Hashana, NIU policy does not require professors to alter exam schedules, even if a professor announces the exam within the same week.

Scheduling becomes even more complicated for holidays that run from dusk to dusk, as all Jewish holidays do.

Many professors try to minimize conflicts.

Susan McMillan, an adjunct political science professor, aims to schedule midterm exams around conflicts with religious observance. McMillan also asks students to point out oversights.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar and the culmination of a 10-day period of introspection beginning with Rosh Hashana, in which observant Jews reflect upon their deeds from the past year.

The traditional observance for Yom Kippur is a 25-hour fast. Observant Jews refrain from all work, eating and drinking, sexual relations, washing or bathing and wearing leather or cosmetics.

Congregation Beth Shalom will hold services this year in the Holmes Student Center’s Regency Room. Services are free for NIU students at 7 p.m. Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Congregation Beth Shalom’s Web site describes services as “a pluralistic, inclusive, egalitarian blending of many Jewish movements.”

Most Jewish congregations expect higher turnout during Yom Kippur than regular services, but many students are in the habit of attending with families.

Ari Sigman, a sophomore undecided major, said he attends services when at home, but not while at school.

Sigman said services back home closely follow the more traditional Conservative movement, rather than those of Beth Shalom.

Jewish tradition holds that each person is judged on Rosh Hashana, and on this day the deeds of the past year, as well as a person’s fate for the year to come, are both written in “the book of life.” The 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, known as “The Days of Awe,” are days of repentance.

Yom Kippur is followed by a week-long festival known as Sukkot, which begins at dusk Oct. 17 and precedes the holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which begin at dusk Oct. 24 and 25, respectively.